JR Valrey, organizer of ‘The Last Saturday at the Compound’ Black media fundraiser, with almost 25 years of working for the people, talks to the Bay View about this upcoming epic event and the importance of thriving Black media
by Bay View Editor Nube Brown
JR, we appreciate and honor your long-standing experience working with and writing for the Bay View and then including us in this beautiful fundraising event. Big ups to owning and operating Black New World Media and establishing the Oakland Bureau of the SF Bay View. Thank you for being in conversation with us.
SFBV: What inspired and motivated you to put together this event?
JR: A few things inspired “The Last Saturday at the Compound” event. First and foremost, as a journalist from East Oakland, it is important that we have media that is produced by ghetto dwellers for ghetto dwellers. There have been too many times throughout history where journalists neglect our community achievements and issues either because they are not informed enough about what goes on or they don’t care about our well-being or interests or a combination of the two.
BlackNewWorldMedia.com and the San Francisco Bay View newspaper both have a legacy of fighting on behalf of the Black community as well as highlighting the work of people who work on behalf of our community.
We have to fund our own Black media organizations if we want the story to be reported right. In a highly technological society like we have in the U.S., owning our own media is a necessity because we can’t expect corporate media to spread our narratives and viewpoints. Their interest is against ours, the blue-collar people.
SFBV: For those folx like myself who don’t know much about the D’Wayne Wiggins Compound, please tell us about it and why you chose this venue?
JR: I chose to do “The Last Saturday at the Compound” fundraiser for Black media at the Compound because it is the cultural center of East Oakland. The venue is owned and run by D’Wayne Wiggins of the legendary R&B group Tony, Toni, Tone, and all of the artists featured at the event, with the exception of the DJ, are regular performers that I had met at the Compound over the last year.
So, since this will be the second to last event at the Compound, I thought that it was only right to include artists that love this East Oakland venue as much as I do.
SFBV: Following this fundraiser for SF Bay View and Black New World Media, the Compound will host the “Oakland2Accra Connection” fundraising event. What is your and the D’Wayne Wiggins Compound’s relationship to Africa?
JR: D’Wayne Wiggins and myself began hanging out at the concerts of Seun Kuti, the son of the legendary Afro Beats founder Fela Kuti, when he would perform in the Bay. I introduced Seun to D’Wayne after I had interviewed Seun for a radio station that I was working for at the time circa 2012.
I had known D’Wayne for over half my life since he was a friend of my family, having gone to Castlemont High School with my mother and her brothers and sister. After meeting Seun, D’Wayne started traveling back and forth to Ghana and Nigeria in 2018.
My first trip to Ghana was in April of 2021, and I originally went to inquire about real estate. When I returned to the U.S., I told D’Wayne about my experience and let him know that the Panafest organizers, whom I met, wanted to bring Tony, Toni, Tone to the Pan African political and cultural conference.
I helped put the pieces together, was hired as the road manager on the July ‘21 Tony, Toni, Tone Panafest Tour featuring Oakland singer Keidra. The rest is history.
Our next tour will start in mid-December and end at the beginning of January. This time we are bringing four female vocalists with us.
SFBV: Far too few of us Black folx get a chance to visit Africa. What kind of influence have your travels had on the musical artists you’ve chosen for this event?
JR: I think that my travels have greatly influenced the artists coming on this tour because I am one of the two main organizers of the tours along with Cassandra Blaine, and the musicians are following the tour path that our experiences have laid out for them in Ghana.
After spending over 30 days in Ghana this year already, prior to this upcoming tour, I feel like I am beginning to have a lay of the land.
SFBV: Tell us more about the artists we’re going to hear at “The Last Saturday at the Compound” event and what kind of vibe you’re hoping to create.
JR: I am honored to introduce the artists that will be performing at “The Last Saturday at the Compound” Black media fundraiser. The legendary KPOO and Bay Life Radio DJ X1 will be on the wheels of steel playing ‘90s and early 2000s HipHop and R&B. TBA is a very dope Black jazz fusion band that the Compound adores. TBA @t_b_amusic will be backing up the Badu-ish sounding soul singer, Melani Diane @melanidianemusic. R&B crooner Dame Drummer will grace the stage with his passionate and political songs.
Also, political poets Epitome @epitomepressingcompany and Upside Down Ghost @_upsidedownghost_ will light up the venue with their conscious ideas and wordplay. So, as you can see, the night will be epic.
SFBV: This is an event centering on two Bay Area Black media organizations, where do you see Black media now and in the future? And what’s necessary from them to help advance the cause of Black Liberation and Self-determination?
JR: Black media is needed more than ever in this hyper-capitalist society where only the dollar counts, because only our voices are going to tell our stories accurately. With people being distracted by Netflix, Roku, video games, social media, sporting events, cultural events and more, it is important for Black people to have a number of platforms where we are respected and represented and can speak freely, without white, corporate or government validation being a concern.
Black media platforms need to adapt to the new ideas of presenting information.
In the future, Black media has to expand into the new media spaces of podcasts, internet radio, utilizing social media and more. Due to a constant lack of funds, it has been hard for Black media to adapt to the rapidly changing world in the Information Age, but we have to do it if we want to survive as Black media and Black people.
Also, Black media platforms need to adapt to the new ideas of presenting information. Too many times the Black media has gotten on its high-horse and believed that because it disperses essential information that the outdated presentation doesn’t matter, which is absolutely wrong.
To prove it, the newspaper formats of the 1980s look nothing like social media platforms of today. Younger people cannot and should not be expected to receive information in the way that their parents did. Everything evolves or dies; Black media as a whole has to do the same or risk becoming antiquated and irrelevant in today’s times.
In Black media, there should always be the goal of trying to be the most innovative, since the Black community sets the trends in many departments within the social fabric of the United States.
Last but not least, the Black Liberation media platforms have to do way better at integrating the various campaigns within the Black Liberation Movement. We cannot target one campaign as our favorite, if our goal is Black Liberation and Self-determination.
. . . traveling to Accra, Ghana from Oakland, California to connect to the motherland in a social, cultural and political way.
The fight is on many fronts, it’s not just in the streets or in the prisons. It’s everywhere we are. If we fail at this task, we risk becoming irrelevant to the Black Liberation Movement because people outside of the targeted campaign will not relate and will not be told what to do, if they’re confused about the efficiency of the campaign goals.
SFBV: Any last thoughts on the upcoming event or anything else you’d like the people to know?
JR: I also have to announce that I just authored my first coffee-table book along with photographer Idris Hasan, called “COVID 2020 Rebellions,” which consists of a number of my writings on how Black Bay Area people were coping with their health, safety, education, psychology and other needs during this historic pandemic.
People will be able to get the book at the Dec. 4 “Last Saturday at the Compound” Black media fundraiser event, as well as at the last event at the Compound before it closes its doors forever, which is the “Oakland2Accra Connection” fundraiser, on Sunday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. Please check out the Go Fund Me to support “Oakland2Accra.”
The Compound is located at 926 85th Ave. in East Oakland. Thank you for the interview.
SFBV: Thank you, JR, for organizing what is sure to be an exciting event and giving us your time! This is exciting news about your book, and we look forward to seeing you Dec. 4.
More about the Oakland2Accra Connection: The connection is a collective of artists from different disciplines traveling to Accra, Ghana from Oakland, California in December of 2021, to connect to the motherland in a social, cultural and political way. Under the guidance of The People’s Minister of Information JR and performing artist Keidra on Stage, artists will have the opportunity to learn about Ghana’s deep Pan Afrikan history as well as be immersed in the nation’s rich one-of-a-kind culture.
We are asking anyone who supports Black artists and journalists to contribute financially to this monumental international artist exchange. All proceeds will be going directly to the cause. We appreciate you all for seeing the vision and the difference this will make for artists and journalists to come.
Bay View Editor Nube Brown is a New Afrikan, abolitionist and Liberate the Caged Voices columnist. She hosts Prison Focus Radio on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco and KPOO.com every Thursday 11:00 to noon and also broadcasts Bay View TV Breaking News on Instagram @sfbayview every weekday morning from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SF Bay View Oakland Bureau Chief JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of the Black New World Journalists Society, can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook. Visit www.youtube.com/blockreporttv.